Cobb Salad

June 17, 2012

Margaux says…

In the summer we eat a giant salad for dinner almost every night.  It’s just too hot to cook, and honestly, too hot to eat anything but salad (in my opinion!).  This salad shows up on our table at least once a month every summer.  It started out being a favorite in our house because it was great for our new little eater, who couldn’t chew lettuce yet.  There’s an abundance of toppings that we could pick off for him, and so it was a complete meal for him as well as us.  Two years later, and it’s still a summer favorite!

I made it for our Father’s Day dinner tonight, served with a crusty bread for soaking up extra dressing, and a summery cake for dessert.  When I called my dad , we discussed our dinner plans (Dad and I are the cooks of the family), and he thought the salad sounded great and asked that I post it.  I’m actually shocked that I haven’t yet, as much as I make it, so I guess it’s about time!  So here you go, Dad…  xoxoxo!

Classic Cobb Salad
from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6

Dressing (you only really need about half of this…I save it and use it on other salads for a few days after)
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cored and shredded
1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 bunch watercress, some of the stems trimmed, chopped
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (we used a Stilton)
6 strips cooked bacon, roughly chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or 1 pt. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chives, minced

Make the dressing: Combine the canola oil, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, sugar, and garlic in a blender. Purée the ingredients to make a smooth dressing and season with salt and pepper. Set the dressing aside.

Make the salad: On a (very) large platter, combine the iceberg and romaine lettuces along with the watercress. Arrange the blue cheese, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, chicken, and avocado on top of the greens in neat rows. To serve, drizzle salad with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and top with chives. Alternatively, toss everything together in a bowl.

Do ahead: Salad dressing keeps, covered and refrigerated, for up to one week. Individual ingredients (except the avocado, which is too prone to browning) can be prepped and chopped, and kept in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the salad. However, no doubt due to sturdiness of 2/3 of the lettuces, I found that the entire assembled salad kept surprisingly well wrapped in plastic in the fridge for a few hours.


Tagine: a special earthenware pot used in Morocco for cooking

Tagine: a stew-like Berber dish of North Africa made of vegetables and meats, slow cooked at low temperatures

Aunt Suzy says . . .

If you read our blog, you know we love Moroccan cooking!  My birthday gift from my brother and sister-in-law didn’t work out last fall, so I had a credit at an online cooking store.  I have always wanted a tagine, so I treated myself to this beauty!  It was so fun to cook in and I hope to use it often.  I think it will get more use in the winter since tagines, the dish, are typically heartier fare.  My friend Asya gave me this recipe recently, and I couldn’t wait to try it once my tagine arrived.  It was delicious, as expected with a Martha recipe.  And it was very easy, not always expected with a Martha recipe.  Delicious served with a dry French Rose wine or a Chenin Blanc.

NOTE:  You do not need a tagine to cook this; a Dutch oven will do the trick as well!

Serves 4-6

adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 tablespoons harissa (more = hotter)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 cups stock – fish or chicken

1 sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise then cut crosswise in 1/3-thick slices

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 zucchini, cut lengthwise and then sliced crosswise in 1/3-inch slices

1 summer squash, prepared ditto to zuke

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 preserved lemon, rind only, small dice (optional)

1 pound salmon filet, wild-caught preferred

1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

Roast the salmon to very rare in a 450° oven for 5-7  minutes depending on thickness.  Let cool slightly and then remove the skin from the bottom.  Cut into serving pieces and set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or bottom of a tagine over medium heat.  Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the harissa and tomato paste, stirring till combined.  Whisk in the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the sweet potato, cauliflower, zuke and squash.  Stir to combine, then add salt.  Bring this mixture to a gentle bubble, then turn down heat and simmer covered until vegetables are al dente.  This could take 15-30 minutes depending on what type of pot you are using.

Next add the chickpeas and the diced preserved lemon.  Stir to combine and cook for another 10 minutes, covered.  Place the reserved salmon pieces on top of the vegetable mixture.  Cook, covered, till just heated through in order not to dry out the salmon or the tagine.  Serve over cooked couscous or rice and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.

Pappa Al Pomodoro

January 7, 2012

Margaux says…

Happy birthday, Desi! My son is 3 today, and it reminded me of this soup, which I made for his birthday party last year. This year we’re skipping a meal with the party, but I made the soup this week anyway because it was on my mind, and it is SO GOOD!!! This has got to be at least in my top 5 favorite soups, if not number 1. I saw Ina make it on Barefoot Contessa last fall, and have made it SEVERAL times since. It was in the same “bread” episode that I got this recipe, which is also pretty wonderful. Anyway, back to the soup…for one thing, it has fennel in it, which is fast becoming one of my favorite ingredients. If you haven’t tried fennel yet, you must…it adds so much flavor to things! The other awesome thing about this soup is the topping–you have to make that part, because it’s divine. If you’re making the soup vegetarian, it’s no problem, the topping will be just as good without the pancetta (although you may need to add a smidge of olive oil to make up for the lack of grease).

If you’ve never used fennel before, you chop it like you would an onion. First, you need to remove the stalks completely, then cut the bottom off, and then slice it lengthwise. Remove the outer layer, and cut out the core at the bottom. Then lay one half cut-side down on a chopping board, and slice lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Then slice again crosswise, in about 1/4″ slices. Super easy.

If you have leftover croutons after the soup’s all been eaten up, they also taste great on salads (including the pancetta)!

Make this vegetarian by replacing the chicken broth with water, and eliminating the pancetta. Make it vegan by eliminating the parmesan, which I actually did last time I made it and it was just as delicious! I found that one large loaf of ciabatta will work for both the soup and the topping. I don’t remove all the crusts from the bread that I put in the soup, just the toughest bottom part (I have a hard time wasting all that bread!).

Pappa Al Pomodoro

from Barefoot Contessa

1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (water for vegetarian)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (eliminate for vegan)

For the topping:
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped (eliminate for vegetarian)
24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper

Directions
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Chicken Pot Pie

October 27, 2011

Margaux says…

After 15 years in Chicago, I’ve come to really dread winter.  I think it was last winter that did me in, and they say that this winter is going to be even worse.  I used to love winter!  The biggest problem is having to bundle up a toddler in a million layers, and buckle all those layers into a car seat, etc, etc, etc.  Bah humbug, right?  Plus, towards the end, I really start to get those end-of-winter blues, and it doesn’t help that the winters seem to keep getting longer in this town.

The up-side to this sad problem of mine is that I cook A LOT in the winter.  Winter seemed to officially kick-off here last week (60 mile-an-hour winds, temps in the 40s, and rain for 3 days straight), and the serious cooking started: I made beef stroganoff, this amazing turkey stew that I’ve made several times in past winters, brown sugar cookies, Granny’s apple cake (which I promise I will post soon…apples never tasted so good), applesauce, chicken stock (of course!), roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy….and I topped off the week with these chicken pot pies.  I think I gained 10 pounds, (and I kind of felt like Paula Deen with all the butter I used) but the cooking and baking frenzy kept my spirits up!  Luckily we eat a lot of salads to counter-balance all the fat.  Of course, also like typical Chicago, after 4 days of really crappy weather, it was beautiful again for several days…totally teasing me!

These pot pies are nothing like the gross frozen ones of our childhoods (at least my childhood-I had a mother who didn’t like to cook).  Last month’s Martha Stewart has the most beautiful pot pie on the cover, and several more inside, and I decided that this will be the winter of pot pies in our house, starting with this classic.  My husband is totally on board…while eating these he said he wished I made pot pies more often.  Wish granted!

For the chicken, the recipe called for 2 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes. Instead, I made a pot of chicken stock the day before with a whole chicken, and just used the cooked chicken in the recipe, cut into the cubes. It ends up being about the same amount of chicken (maybe a little less, but it still turned out great). And then you have chicken broth on hand for other recipes!

For the pie crust, I found I needed more than a half-recipe of pie dough, so I used the remainder of the dough to make a couple apple hand-pies for our dessert since I happened to have apples on hand.  The unfortunate part about pie dough is that you can’t re-roll out the extra after cutting out the crusts because it will get really tough.  So make sure you’re being very conservative when cutting out the pie circles so that you waste very little dough.  Also, I didn’t make an all-butter crust for this recipe because I thought it would be too rich (can you believe I just said that??), and instead did one stick of butter and 1/2 cup of Crisco.

Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie

makes eight 4-inch potpies, serves 8
make ahead: you can refrigerate the filling for up to 3 days in an airtight container

for the filling:
1 1/2 oz. bacon, finely chopped (about 2-3 strips)
1 tbsp EV olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
3 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 1/4 lbs. chicken, cubed
3 tbsp heavy cream

for the topping:
1 recipe pie dough (but using 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup Crisco in place of the 1 cup of butter and 1/4 cup Crisco, and omitting sugar)
1 large egg, for egg wash (which I forgot to do, and it turned out just fine)

1. Make the filling: Cook bacon in a large skillet over low heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate using a slotted spoon. Raise heat to medium, and add oil. Add onion, and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrots, and celery, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in flour.
2. Add stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cream. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes (if using cooked chicken, there’s no need to cook 5 minutes). Return bacon to saucepan. Let cool.
3. Divide filling among 8 4-inch (12 oz.) ramekins.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the topping: Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 8 circles that are 1 inch wider than the ramekins. Top ramekins with dough, and crimp edges with a fork to seal. Brush dough with egg wash.
5. Bake until toppings are golden and fillings are bubbling, about 40 minutes.

I can’t let good pie dough go to waste, so I made a couple apple hand pies with it (luckily I had apples on hand).

Peel, core and slice a good baking apple, like Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Macintosh or Granny Smith. Place apples on one side of the pie dough, leaving about an inch or so on the edge for crimping. Cover apples with about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Dot with about a tablespoon of butter, cut into small pieces. Fold dough over the apples and crimp the edges (it should be pretty full and packed in there…the apples will shrink when baked). Sprinkle sugar on top, and cut a few small holes in it. Bake for about 30 minutes or so…keep a close eye on it because baking time will vary based on the size of your pies. Take out and cool completely before eating!


Margaux says…

This is the ultimate mac n’ cheese recipe for everyone in my family.  Well, at least for me and my siblings…I suppose I shouldn’t speak for everyone, and I know my dad is really fond of his stove top recipe that he has perfected over the years.  But for me, nothing else compares, and I know many of my family members will agree.  It’s the quintessential comfort food, and always reminds me of my childhood when I make it.  Not only that, but it’s easy, cheap, quick, and is a crowd-pleaser no matter who the crowd is!

This macaroni and cheese recipe is a baked version, so it gets all crispy and cheesy on top.  You can serve it as a side dish with a roast or something for a Sunday dinner, or as the main course on a weeknight.  Double the recipe for a crowd and bake in a 9×13″ dish…this recipe serves 4-5 people.  I always serve it with a salad and a vegetable…usually frozen peas!  That makes it really feel like home. I usually use sharp cheddar, but this time I used a mix of colby and monterey jack, and it was really good. Granny always used medium cheddar.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I love this recipe for mac ‘n cheese!  Even though it’s quite familiar to our family, I’ve never known anyone else who makes it this way.  I have experimented with other approaches over the years – primarily substituting a white sauce for the butter/milk before baking – but  I keep coming back to what I grew up with!   Back when I was at home and Granny was my Mom, we had this as a main dish with canned green beans (!).  But when Margaux and her siblings were growing up, Granny/Mom would serve it with meatloaf (plus a salad and vegetable).  For some reason, the marriage of the meatloaf and the mac ‘n cheese is perfect to me.  This makes me think we need to make and post Granny’s meatloaf recipe!

Granny’s Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups macaroni
1 cup (or so) shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp salted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have an 8″x8″ glass baking dish ready.
Bring medium pot of water to a rolling boil. Boil macaroni for 5 minutes, drain.
Pour drained macaroni (still hot) into baking dish. Stir butter and salt in until butter is melted completely. Stir in half the cheese. Pour milk over the mixture. Top with rest of cheese (I usually use a little more than a half a cup). Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is starting to brown and is crispy.

Aunt Suzy says

My favorite new discovery is food writer Francis Lam on Salon.com.  Not all his spots include recipes, but all are interesting. The minute I saw his column last Friday I knew I had to bunny-hop down to the farmer’s market on Saturday to get ingredients.  All I needed was arugula, tomatoes and shallots.  I was thinking that it might be too late in the season for arugula, but the great growers of Burning River Farm came through.  I was shocked to see home grown shallots (from another vendor);  I was fully prepared to have to buy them from a store.  I was able to get all three fresh ingredients required for this simple, elegant and beautiful dish. Randy and I ate the entire recipe, which I think was supposed to serve four!  It paired beautifully with a rich Spanish rose wine.   A note about the pasta – I thought from experience that we should be using small pasta shapes of some sort like fusilli or penne, but I’m glad I followed the recipe and used linguine.  It was perfect and fun to eat.  On another note, I heartily recommend reading the original column – link above – it was fun to read and made my mouth water! (August 2011 addendum – Francis is no longer at Salon, but is now at another food site Gilt Taste, where he posted an article about this recipe.)

Margaux says

Making dinner while entertaining a 19 month old is quite a challenge, so I’m always looking for fast and easy…but I don’t want to compromise on flavor!!  This is another winner for me because it took no time at all to make, and it was delicious.  I agree with Suzy that I was going against what I know about pasta by using spaghetti instead of pasta pieces for this dish, but in the end I was glad I followed the recipe!

2 1/2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes (a variety is nice, but good old red farm-stand or garden tomatoes will be just fine)

2-3 handfuls of baby arugula (we added about 3 cups)

thinly sliced shallot or shaved onion

3/4-1 pound spaghetti or linguine, depending on what pasta to veggies ratio you want (we used 3/4 lb linguine)

1 cup grated Parmegiano (the recipe said optional, but I don’t think so :-))

olive oil, salt and pepper

Seed and chop the tomatoes into chunks.  Place in a large bowl – large enough to hold everything including the cooked pasta and with enough room to toss vigorously.  Sprinkle with some olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste.  Place the arugula on top and then the sliced shallots or shaved onion.  (the shallots were fab!)

In the meantime, the spaghetti or linguine should be cooking away – or at least the water should be at the boiling point when you’ve finished setting up your bowl of vegetables.  Cook the pasta in salted water till al dente according to package directions.  When finished cooking, drain and then dump the drained pasta on top of the vegetables.  Press down a little and dowse with olive oil.  Let sit 3 minutes for the arugula to wilt and the shallots or onions to soften up a bit.  After the 3 minute timer goes off, toss a little to blend and then add the Parmegiano and toss away to thoroughly blend the cheese in and distribute the ingredients throughout the dish.  The recipe said to add some red wine vinegar if you want, but we thought it was perfect without.

Margaux says

This dish is a staple in our household.  The chicken is perfect: juicy, flavorful and perfectly cooked every time.   The carrots are super delicious…my husband, who doesn’t like cooked carrots, even loves them.  It’s also very easy to make, and can be a relatively quick weeknight meal.  You need to have the preserved lemons in order to make this (I made it without them once and the chicken wasn’t nearly as good!).  If Meyer lemons aren’t available (and they’re not right now…they’re only in season from February-April), you can use regular lemons.   And you can buy preserved lemons in some stores, like Whole Foods, but they’re not NEARLY as good as homemade.

Aunt Suzy says

I also love this recipe and Margaux is reminding me that we have not made this in a long, long time!  I just noticed carrots available for the first time at the farmer’s market last weekend, so I have a hunch this will be on our menu soon.  The original recipe for this did not call for preserved lemon, instead calling for thin slices of lemon placed over the chicken.  I’ve made it both ways and like it with the preserved lemon better – but then I love preserved lemon!!  Sparkle Rice seems to be a perfect match for this dish, but I’ve been thinking of experimenting with Isreali Couscous lately as a side dish.  The original recipe suggested an off-dry riesling or a rose – either is perfect!

MOROCCAN-STYLE CHICKEN WITH SPICED CARROTS

Serves 4

The Carrots

6-8 large carrots

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

pinch cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

Peel the carrots.  Using a study vegetable peeler, cut carrots into lengthwise ribbons.


Toast the cumin seeds lightly and then crush in a mortar and pestle.  Toast the coriander seeds. (I toast them together and crush both.)   Toss the carrots with all remaining ingredients and place in a 9×13 baking dish.  Bake at 500 degrees in the upper third of the oven, uncovered, for 7 minutes – stir after 4 minutes.

The Chicken and Finishing

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs OR 4 boneless, skinless breast halves (we always use breasts)

1/8” wide strips of preserved lemon (or thin slices of whole lemon, cut cross-wise)

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (we always use more, but then we’re cilantro lovers!)

Brush the chicken lightly with olive oil and place on top of the carrots after they have baked per above.  Place the strips of preserved lemon or fresh lemon slices on top of the chicken.  Put back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes more (depending on thickness of the breasts), until the juices run clear.  Don’t overcook.  Place chicken on a platter.  Toss the carrots with the cilantro and place beside the chicken on the platter.

Sparkle Rice

Sauté in a little vegetable oil until soft – 2-4 garlic cloves, minced; 1-2 tablespoons chopped ginger; 1 medium onion, diced; 2 carrots, diced.

Add 2 cups white basmati rice and sauté till translucent.  Add a little less than 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth and 5 whole cloves and a 2-inch piece of cinnamon.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Let sit for a few minutes, then remove the cloves and cinnamon and stir to blend.  Add some golden raisins if you wish.